Few days ago Pedro, from Argentina, asked us a question about how to make a white wine with using additional yeasts. The question was as follows:

Hello friends from vinopedia, I am from Entre Rios, Argentina. I am a wine enthusiast and I would like to make a white wine in a very small scale for my own consumption. My intention is to perform the fermentation with the wineskins, but without adding yeasts. I would like to ask you if I have to monitor or be careful with anything else apart from the temperature and density. In which type of container should this fermentation be carried out? I would also appreciate any advice that comes to mind. Thank you very much in advance and congratulations for your Webpage, it’s excellent. Pedro

José Manuel Gómez, responsible for the vineyards in Castillo de Maetierra answers:

Hi Pedro, as you suggest, pre-fermentation maceration in cold temperatures with the aim of maximizing the variety’s aromatic potential is very advisable when making white wines. However, separating the wineskins and pips before starting fermentation is recommended. If we start the alcoholic fermentation with wineskins and pips, we run the risk of extracting excessive tannins from the pips, which will provide the wine with aggressive tannins, thus obtaining an excessively structured, astringent and bitter wine.

Once maceration is completed and the wineskins separated, performing a good clearing, with the aim of eliminating the deposits from the must, and obtaining a clean must before fermentation is important. This will result in a clean wine devoid of any unpleasant aromas.

As you state, you can make a wine without using yeasts; but, if you follow this option, you have to be very careful and consider some issues. Depending on where it is made, if it is being made in a bodega where it has been previously made, fermentation will start spontaneously with the yeasts present in the bodega itself and/or those present in the grape. However, if it is a new bodega, where wine has never been made before, if we do not culture yeasts, the fermentation will depend on the yeasts present in the grape itself, which are those present on its skins.

If choosing spontaneous fermentation, knowing the local yeasts is very important in order to avoid any risks, such as yeasts that will provide undesirable organoleptic characteristics dominating during fermentation, or yeasts that will not be capable of completing the fermentation to the desired point, although this depends on the type of wine we want to make (dry, sweet, semi-sweet, etc.).

Another issue to consider is the level of nutrients present in the grape, which is fundamental for the yeasts to complete their vital cycle. Its evaluation and contribution to the must is interesting if necessary. The lack of nutrients during alcoholic fermentation increases the risk of organoleptic issues appearing in the wine.

The best material to make white wines is stainless-steel, due to its harmlessness, easy cleaning and simplicity monitoring the temperature, either with a cooling jacket if we have cooling equipment, or by means of water showers. Another material used when making white wines is oak; however, monitoring the temperature and cleanliness is complicated when using these types of containers.

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